Category Archives: Amobia

Wireless Broadband World Africa 2009

I was a speaker at Wireless Broadband World Africa today at the CTICC. I presented on Industry Self-Regulation, WAPA and the OSA.

I had some good feedback and one delegate commented that he liked my idea that self regulation is like the Wiki approach to regulation. Inclusive, decentralised and demorcratised.. order without leaders.

I found Sadiq Malik’s ideas on a Telco 2.0 business model very interesting.


I was also a panellist for two of the discussion sessions. Paris Mashile’s (ICASA chair) was on one of these panels. He talked about ICASA’s challenges around funding and skills and how industry employs (steals) ICASA people. I suggested he should hire William Stucke (-;

There were a number of positive ideas around spectrum from Paris Mashile’s presentation:

  • Efficient use of spectrum, sharing and re-use
  • Use it or lose it policy
  • A spectrum audit is in process and he agreed spectrum assignments should be public knowledge

He suggested that a large chunk of spectrum is assigned for military use and there would have to be a negotiation on freeing up some of that spectrum.

He confirmed that the process for licensing 2.6Ghz and 3.5Ghz spectrum will be formally announced towards the end of the month, but provided these details:

  • This spectrum will be technology neutral.. not just for WiMAX use.
  • ~120Mhz spectrum will be divided into 30Mhz portions (per license).
  • There will be a 30% HDI requirement (not 51% BEE)
  • There will be a “beauty contest” first round selection process, followed by an auction process.

This sounds very much like the initial process for getting Individual EC(N)S licenses. I’d guess at least 20 operators will make it past the beauty contest phase.. which makes the details of the auction very interesting. Will it be an open auction?, how many bidding iterations? etc.

This is going to be an interesting ride.

How to start a business

Figure out what service you are currently buying from somebody where.. something pisses you off and you figure you can do it better, a niche, something you are passionate about, a new focus (value layer abstraction), a new category, where you can be a leader, maybe a bit geeky.. but ready for general adoption, something that allows you to take a bit of risk (ahead of the cure).

I’ve kinda done the above 3 times already.

It helps if people tell you it can’t be done. Good motivation.

Another way to read this: Your customers are your future competition.

Joe on ITWeb

I was quoted in an ITWeb article: Small telcos in limbo

Not the best article, imho.

I few comments..

As usual, I can’t remember saying the wireless access providers are generally in a state of limo.. they are still deploying networks using licence-exempt spectrum. In the context of their new licences.. I did say I think many of them are still in a state of awe and disbelief after actually getting their new (ECNS) licences. It was an interesting battle.

Most of the independent wireless operators which WAPA represents now have the same licences as Telkom and Neotel.. the only snag is that they don’t have access to licenced frequency spectrum and most of them don’t have the kind of money needed to build big fibre networks (yet).

I’d say this is a time of strategy and planning. They don’t have the option to “go for” shared or dedicated spectrum at this point, not yet. If anybody has created a state of limbo (around spectrum) it’s ICASA.

There will be a strong focus on spectrum in 2009 as licenced or lite-licenced spectrum would allow operators to deploy improved wireless networks under their new licences.. and would be a logical next step without the massive capital expenses related to building fibre networks.

The revenue numbers may very well be accurate.. but 60%+ of this income relates to consumer business income which has been under pressure from competing services like ADSL.

Spectrum 2.0

Dominic and I had a very interesting meeting with Steve Song and Andrew Rens from the Shuttleworth Foundation this morning about the idea of open / shared frequency spectrum.

You may remember me writing about Lite Licencing.

A few ideas from our meeting which I think should be more widely distributed:

  • There seems to be a wide acceptance of open spectrum allocation models from global bodies like the ITU, Ofcom and the FCC.
  • We need an independent audit of South Africa’s spectrum allocation. Who has what? What is open?
  • Spectrum management should be open and transparent.. it’s a national resource. Think mining rights and databases of who may mine where.
  • We talked about the possible negative effects of using an auction process to hand out frequency.
  • I think everybody likes the Lite Licencing idea, but we may want to implement the idea in a bit more simple, pragmatic and “african” way. Related to this was DFS (dynamic frequency selection), being able to identify base stations and avoiding interference. I like the idea of location aware base stations which query some central database for the frequency ranges they are allowed to use per area.
  • The 600-700Mhz TV “white space” is an interesting one. Wide prorogation, maybe best used for voice services. Let’s hope we get to use it soon after 2011.
  • Use it or lose it. There should be no such thing as a permanent spectrum assignment.
  • We talked about spectrum trading.. could be nice, but there were a number of concerns about this. Think Enron trading electricity.
  • I like the idea of the “spectrum commons”.
  • Is spectrum a scare resource? Some studies show that even in metro areas (UK) only about 14% of available spectrum is used in any given area. Obviously we are not using this resource efficiently enough.
  • We talked about how we can change and improve the state of spectrum policies.. to help our new ECNS licensees, increase competition, improve access and drive down costs. Industry needs to get together, we need some lobbying momentum. Let’s get more people interested. Naturally WAPA and the ISPA have been working on this, but a new focus on open spectrum policies would be nice. Expect to see a workshop on the topic soon.

This seems to be a good time to change the way we think about spectrum allocation. We’ll have a new DoC minister soon and we have ~200 ECNS licensees needing a solution very soon. A good time for ideas like these to have an impact.

Quick Update

Weekly bullet-news..

  • Monday, gym, uber-juice, ISPA PR working group, Lions Head walk, Glen Beach sunset, “red olives” at the Daily Deli, bumped into Janine, watched Hancock again.. it was better the 2nd time.
  • Tuesday, FICA admin (what a waste of time), spinning, Suicide gorge and Lions Head full moon walk (12 Dec) planning.
  • Wednesday, gym, swim, lunch at Manna with Cath, watched Taken.. really cool movie.. I can relate.. also nice S8 driving scene, sushi in Obs with Georg and girls from Holland.. after a few drinks they understood Afrikaans and we understood Dutch, they insisted on going to a Kareoke bar.. that was a strange experience, bumped into Nicola at Bang Bang.
  • Thursday, Gardeners Cottage in Newlands with the boys from Westcon and Extreme Networks. Took the Extreme guys to see the Hub project switch.. a bit nerdy maybe. Teraco DC1 visit, 80%+.. should be finished in the next 10 days. Official tours should start in Jan. Lions head walk and a drive around Camps Bay. Braai at home with very nice lamb steaks and gourmet braai-broodjies (red onion and mozerella). Watched Hitman.. more Audi product placement.
  • Song of the week: Silver Springs, Fleetwood Mac, kinda like a revenge love song.. nice idea:

    Time cast a spell on you… you won’t forget me…
    I know I could’ve loved you but you would not let me….
    I’ll follow you down ’til the sound of my voice will haunt you..
    You’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you..

  • Friday, braai-broodjies.. breakfast of champions.. hmm, can’t find a Wikipedia entry for those I’ll have to go add it :-P, early car service, Mia time, visited the Audi showroom in the Waterfront, Mia climbed around in the new TTs, bumped into Chris (another Audi fan), Clifton 4 sundown picnic with Georg and Lindy.. Wavescape surf movie.
  • I asked Mia if she remembers what’s on the front of my Amobia cap.. she said: “radio”.. how’s that for brand association (-:
  • Saturday, gym, swim, Beta Beach with Andy.
  • Sunday, Mia was up at 5AM!.. first night she asked to sleep without a nappy (with success).. because “I’m a big girl”, watched Treasure Planet again, uber-juice, gym, swim, drive to Somerset West, very nice lunch at Fishmonger in Stellenbosch, visit to Fairview wine farm (Paarl), it was a hot day: 39deg, awesome nap, La Med (briefly), jacSharp at Karma in Camps Bay.
  • I’ve been invited to the jacSharp “press and media launch” of their debut album this week. Cool.. now all I need is a date (-;

Have a fun week..
I’m off to walk up Lions Head again.

Holding our breath for an Open Telecoms Market

Remember, remember the 21st of November..

Good news for SA telecoms: on Friday 31 Oct the High Court denied the Minister of Communications leave to appeal a recent judgement that gave all VANS license holders (ISPs) the right to build network infrastructure.

Now, if the Department of Communications could just get out of the way and do the right thing, South Africa will have a very different telecommunications services market after 21 November 2008.

There has been a lot of good press about this. I’ll just add a few ideas..

Why is it important that VANS get (I)ECNS licenses? Well it would be pretty cool if smaller and more dynamic businesses could build their own networks to serve the telecommunications needs of their communities. The business case for building infrastructure differs with scale. Maybe it makes sense for us to interconnect 10 farms or support a community driven surveillance system.. now we can.

IECNS licenses allow wireless network operators to apply for frequency spectrum. A new licensing model will give a lot more structure and clarity to the outdoor fixed wireless market. We can start thinking about lightly regulated or shared frequency licensing models. We can share and we can make it work.

IECNS licenses allow us to lay fibre. How? Well we simply inform the municipality that we are going to start digging in 30 days. How cool is that! Start thinking about things like community operated Metro Ethernet networks. We can dig up roads now.

Most importantly.. we’ll have to start thinking about telecoms infrastructure in a new way: Yes, we can.

I’m holding my breath. Well, kinda.. Amobia has been thinking this way for a while now.

Quick Update

Ola, summer is here.. what an awesome week.. now is the winter of our discontent..

  • Monday, Caprice in Camps Bay, pizza and drinks on the deck at home with friends, bit of a rowdy evening.
  • Tuesday, Lion’s Head walk, car wash (first time in about 4 months), cable car run, wholesome veggie dinner, watched Fight Club.
  • There is something about that Moby Bourne Identity song that just makes we want to go running.
  • Wednesday, swim at the Long Street baths with Andy.. the place sure has character, Teraco Cape Town site visit, chaired the ISPA INX working group meeting, off to Stellenbosch to chair an Amobia meeting, burger at Cognito.
  • Thursday, gym, swim, took a day off.. bit of a metrosexual day, haircut and manicure at Mooi, scalp massage while listening to Abba.. *grin*, (sorry B), they have cupcakes and wine, then tea at Mango-OMC, took the ladies a box of Cassis Pastisserie creations, an Am I Collective visit, a quick Neotel meeting, facial at Elements, run in the foresty areas at the foot of Signal Hill, wholesome veggie dinner, Asoka, Extreme Hotel.. which could be a nice bar if you could get some service there.
  • Try Malibu and Peartizer. Try a few drops of Tabasco and Malibu in a shot glass.
  • Friday, gym, power plate (seems to tone facial muscles more than anything else, hehe), 1km swim, took a walk down to Daily Deli to have brunch with somebody really cool, test drove a GTI DSG, then an A4 cab, Mia time, had some fun with a voting system (for a good cause), popped on to IRC for the first time in about 3 years, a friend had a DUI incident so Georg had to go bail him out the next day.
  • Saturday, gym, swim with Mia, Sinn’s ice cream, braai with friends on the deck at home, took Mia to the Spring Tide (jail bait) festival on Camps Bay beach wearing her new rocker chick t-shirt. Watched JacSharp play. Cocktails with Jules, Nicola and Ben at Caprice. Mia says she wants to be rock star.
  • Sunday, Tamboerskloof park swings visit, braai at home, had a bit of a moment when Mia climbed up a cupboard and swallowed a whole Barocca Calmag, she later threw up on her mom, Rafiki’s to plan our housewarming, it’s going to be a big one, watched Seven again.
  • Somebody asked me on Friday if I’m changing or if I’m returning to my natural state.. interesting question, “I changed by not changing at all” — Pearl Jam, vs.

Idea of the week..

The making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art. Many Dos and Don’ts. First of all you’re using some one else’s poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing.”

The making of a great compilation tape is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don’t wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules. Anyway… I’ve started to make a tape… in my head…
— High Fidelity

Have a fun week rock stars.

Quick Update

Busy week, kinda lost track of what I as up to.. mostly because I was moving and it was school holidays so Mia was around Thursday-Sunday..

  • Monday, signed the new lease, gym, swim.
  • Tuesday, moving, figured out the electricity and water, moving, wine on the new deck, unpacking, pizza at Rafiki’s, entertaining story of how Miki started Rafiki’s.
  • Wednesday, gym, swim, plumbers, Amobia internet install at the house, Mia time.
  • Thursday, gym, swim, Stellenbosch visit to help Georg move.
  • Friday, had to keep Mia, three plumbers and two carpet cleaners entertained.
  • Saturday, Rocking the Daisies, jumping castles and JacSharp, thanks for the ticket Bev.
  • Sunday, Waterfront outing to see the USS Theodore Roosevelt, walked down to the Daily Deli for brunch with Andy, gym, swim, Chardonnay and pizza at Adesso with Vanessa and George, I think it could work for the November GeekDinner.

Idea of the week.. You can’t please all of the people all of the time. to go walk up Lion’s Head. Have a fun summer kids.